Recently reinstated Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson returned to the office he hasn't seen in nine months on Tuesday. He said he isn't planning to wreck livelihoods by reversing some of the hiring and promotions made by former Sheriff George Maier.
In the nine months since Stark County Sheriff Timothy A. Swanson retired, the sheriff's office welcomed an influx of new employees, saw longtime employees promoted, opened a sheriff substation in Plain Township, added an internal polygraph examiner and put in motion a host of community programs and outreach initiatives.
Swanson, who returned to the office Tuesday after being reinstated last week by the Ohio Supreme Court, says he isn't planning to undo all of the decisions made by former Sheriff George T. Maier. The Supreme Court removed Maier from office after determining that county Democrats erred in appointing him in February to fill the seat vacated by Sheriff-Elect Michael A. McDonald because Maier did not meet the full-time experience requirements for the position.
Within hours of the court's ruling, Swanson had tapped Lt. Lou Darrow to again lead the operations division and reversed Maier's firing of Human Resources Director Vivianne Whalen Duffrin, who returned to the part-time job Thursday.
"I tried to put everything back to the way it was Feb. 5 (when Democrats appointed Maier) because the Supreme Court said it never happened," Swanson said.
Swanson, who served as sheriff for 13 years, believes Duffrin was a victim of politics because he asked her in February to review Maier's qualifications and she had determined that Maier didn't meet the job's statutory standards.
"I thought I knew (Maier) better than that," Swanson said.
Swanson described he and Maier's relationship as a long-standing and cordial one that has since soured.
Swanson said he too is upset with Maier and the county Democratic party leadership for not following the advice of Duffrin and the six other attorneys who agreed with her.
"I wasn't mad at George Maier," Swanson said. "I'm more upset with him now, upset that they would pull this ruse."
"He said to me, 'I won't run if I don't qualify' and I took him for his word," Swanson said.
Maier, in an interview last week, continues to maintain that he meets the requirements to be sheriff. He said fired Duffrin because he didn't feel he could establish the close-working relationship he needed with someone in that position.
"I didn't have a personal vendetta against her," Maier said Friday.
Maier did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.
Swanson doesn't expect to make further staffing changes while waiting for county Democrats to convene a meeting to hire the next sheriff. On Tuesday morning, he administered the oath of office to employees who had been hired over the past nine months to ensure they could remain employed with the department.
He also said he would not demote any employees promoted by Maier who are still serving their one-year probationary periods.
"I'm not going to come in and wreck their lives based on what someone else did that wasn't proper," Swanson said. "... That will be an issue the next sheriff will have to deal with."
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